A Mini-Flash was sent with the particulars of the wonderful leaders who will be with us this Sunday for our 10 am “Under the Sacred Canopy: a Racial Reconciliation Sunday.” We begin with festive worship followed by a panel discussion, welcoming your input.
May I offer a few words on what it all means? First, our “Sacred Canopy” tent is not only about creating a space large enough to welcome all of the many we hope to attract. It is also about creating a holy space where everyone is entitled to be heard in his or her own truth, and not to be judged. We seek an open, honest, genuine sharing of views. But we’ll move upon the gentle, hopeful side of things, not the blaming, despairing side.
John Wygal deserves credit for insisting that FCC, D create such an event. I want you to read John’s brief statement following mine in this Flash. It’s about what has motivated him to plan for and organize this Sunday, and how personal these matters are for him. Redemption means God doesn’t want us stuck in the past, but to join God’s better way.
John also mentioned to me someone asking him why we bother with all of this. “This isn’t very appealing”, the anonymous person went on. “No one is asking us to do this.”
That was when this became personal for me. Sometimes, not just in Darien, I hear folks speak of race in the church as though it were a social issue out there with the depletion of the ozone layer, off to the side and optional to our mission, but not front and center.
Seared on my own soul is Paul the Apostle’s charge for us to break down “the dividing walls of hostility” (Eph. 2.14-16) and become “ministers of reconciliation.” (2 Cor. 5.16-18). Reconciliation is no mere fringe social issue, but nothing less than a Gospel issue.
Like you, I rejoice to hail from a land of inalienable rights for every man and woman. Like you, I’m flummoxed by why it takes so long for this promise to reach the front lines of everybody’s lives in America, not just since the Civil War, but even in my own lifetime.
But what if I told you as Christians our charge to reconcile life’s bitter differences goes even deeper than rights? What if I said Genesis opens claiming that every woman, man and child is created in God’s image, and treating people as anything less is sacrilege?
What if I said God intends the church to be an outpost of God’s reign on earth, a safe welcoming fortress peering into the dark night for the lost, helping to show a better way? What if I said when “love your neighbor” was lifted up as the essence of our message, Jesus then and there told a parable about a Samaritan who was of a different ethnicity?
I am eager, excited and glad about this coming Sunday because our forebears in faith have understood all of this for generations. For centuries, the heart of our identity as Congregationalists has been our “genius for reconciliation”, the words of Martin Marty.
We proudly teach new members about hiding fugitive slaves in the basement of our now wounded building. We took sides during the Civil Rights marches and didn’t stay silent. We started the ABC house in the 80’s when young ladies of color weren’t so welcome.
Now it’s our turn. How does the old hymn go? “New occasions teach new duties, time makes ancient truth uncouth.” When the Civil Rights Act passed, Dr. Martin Luther King said legislation will never erase hate. Only God’s love can do that, with Jesus Christ as his messenger, showing us a still more excellent way. See you Sunday! I am so excited.